Tag Archives: Arizona

Lets go to the desert and shoot some guns

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There is nothing particularly spectacular about how we know Ian and Amanda Krekelberg other than the fact that until we met them last week I had only ever spoken to Ian on the phone a few times, about 5 years ago. But to be honest in this Facebook age that’s not unique for me nor unusual generally. We have kids of similar ages (although they have way more than us, 4 with #5 on the way!) and Ian and I share a liking for post apocalyptic novels – plenty of reason to ask to meet up. Once met we all got along and we stayed, once last weekend and returning this weekend for a couple of nights.

First we zoomed around a massive lake on jet-skis. And it was fun!!! Saguaro lake was beautiful and huge. Man made by the Stewart Mountain dam on the Salt River it is a great spot for bird and wildlife watching. A friend of the Kreklebergs took us out on his boat to explore the lake shores, spot some birds with the boys and chill out while Amanda looked after Orla. Then we ate Italian food and the kids played, it was great.

Jet Skiing at Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Ian on a jet ski

The beautiful mountains of Arizona as seen from Lake Saguaro

The beautiful mountains of Arizona as seen from Lake Saguaro

After our week in Canyon Country we headed south again to Mesa for some more American adventures. We had a campfire on Friday, complete with s’mores. It seemed like a great idea until we got it lit and realised that cooking on a fire when it’s alreay 100 degrees Fahrenheit out isn’t such fun… it’s more like fiery torture, literally “hellish”! But we did it none the less and the food was great. The kids slept well and we stayed up late playing board games after a spot of scorpion hunting with a UV light, as you do of an evening in Arizona.

Amanda’s parents live nearby and happen to have a pool so we headed for an afternoon in the pool with the kids. They loved it.

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Fun in the pool with giant inflatable killer whales

Early evening and we were waiting for their brother in law to arrive with a suitable off road truck to negotiate the desert sufficiently to the spot where people go “to shoot stuff up”, ya know, TV sets stuff like that.

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Me aiming at a clay pigeon with a shot gun. Admittedly I’m not great with a moving target and didn’t get a single one… Rob held it well for the Deans though

Guns really are not my thing. I’ve shot a rabbit on my land before and my husband has his license so we have guns at home but it’s nothing like this. They’re tools for controlling rabbit populations and so on. We eat what we kill and it’s a heavily legislated sport in the UK. I wasn’t going to go… but I was persuaded and figured it would make a good post. Also, Amanda was looking after the kids so it was our first opportunity for a couple of hours “off” together in two and a half months – too good to turn down!

I climbed up on Robs lap as the truck was just a front cab and there were four of us squeezing in along with the various guns and ammo. Eventually we arrived at a spot littered with shot up stuff and empty cartridges and shells. We set up the clay discs as targets and had a go…

Caitlin Dean

Me firing a .40 calibre hand gun

Okay it was quite fun, although I did feel quite overwhelmed most of the time. I said “Blimey” almost every shot as the power nearly took me off my feet. My shoulder bruised from the shot gun and ears ringing we headed back satisfied that I had actually not only had I hit a few clays, they had exploded in a dramatic, satisfying and quite scary display of the guns immense power.

Rob Dean

Rob with a .22 hand gun. Cowboy style!

In a brilliant end to the day which felt like a “day off” Amanda’s parents babysat while we went to a Teppanyaki/sushi restaurant with a comedy chef who threw fake eggs at us, made continuous jokes and flicked food in our mouths.

Got Sushi, Mesa

Our hilarious Teppanyaki Chef at Got Sushi, Mesa. We’re going to take the kids to a teppenyaki place soon, they’ll love the performance!

Sushi from Got Sushi

Fabulous sushi. We are getting used to the way they box up your left overs so we enjoyed this for breakfast on Sunday.

 

We may not have really known Ian and Amanda before we arrived in Mesa but we left having made good friends, or as all the children found easier to comprehend and determined to use, cousins!

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Deserts deserts everywhere

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I’m skipping over last weekend as we are returning to the same place this weekend in Mesa, Arizona to stay with friends so will fill in on the whole Mesa section next week… that also, rather handily, catches me up to the hear and now. Funnily enough, almost all of the places I’ll tell you about now are not firsts for me… I did a similar trip in the South West in 1992 with my parents and siblings, I was 11 years old. The places haven’t changed in the slightest but my eyes and I certainly have!

On Sunday we headed to Flagstaff, ate Mexican food (rapidly becoming our mainstay cuisine) and checked into a place with a pool as the kids have been desperate for a swim for days now. Flagstaff is a cool place! Friendly people, great atmosphere, funky shops and views of snow capped mountains amid the wild west heat. But most of all Flagstaff has the Lowell Observatory. And the staff at the Lowell Observatory who are not only knowledgeable but capable of infusing you with their knowledge on a palatable level. Delightfully quirky and odd enough to satisfy ones desire to mingle occasionally with proper, intelligent scientist… Always an interesting, humbling and highly amusing experience for average folk like us.

On Monday we went first in the morning for a talk on the history and to learn about the discovery of Pluto. We were able to view the sun through a telescope with a special filter on and we could see the flares and spots. After a chilled out afternoon we returned to the Observatory for the evening events. A talk on our solar system and galaxy, an incredible up close look at the moon and the chance to view Jupiter through their scopes. An experience we hadn’t anticipated or ever even realised was an experience to be experienced was the watching of the Earth’s shadow rise in the East as the sun sets in the West.

The astronomer who talked us through this visual spectacle also knew plenty about the geology of the area and was able to tell us about the volcanoes that had created the landscape we were witnessing and explained how the rocks the boys were playing with on the floor (Earth shadow not being quite as interesting to them) was actually the same sort of rock as on the dark patches on the moon we had just looked at in the big telescope – how cool is that?!

On Tuesday we drove to the Grand Canyon. You’ve all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon but unless you see it for real it is near on impossible to imagine or describe the sheer vastness and beauty of the ancient and unique wonder of the world. It’s quite touristy though and I was glad not to be there at the height of summer.

After that we drove… and we drove… through painted deserts and the most incredible rock formations. It took hours and with zero reception or 4G on our phones we had no idea how far was left. Hoping to reach the four corners and find lodgings we stopped about 30 minutes west of our goal and asked in a shop (A random one by the road still open yet the first sign of life we had passed for maybe an hour) if there were lodgings where we were headed. And lucky we did! No, there was nothing that way for maybe an hour or more. We should head north to Bluff (a name which didn’t instil confidence in us at that time of night, particularly as it didn’t even show up on my phone’s map… local enjoyment back home of Porthemmet sprung to mind.

Thankfully Bluff existed and although both our lodgings and organic breakfast were somewhat over priced it was a nice place with clear artistic hippy appeal. The people were friendly and there was an infectious buzz around the tiny place in the middle of the desert. After our expensive but healthy breakfast we set off for Monument Valley, having taken the very sensible decision to give up on the four corners for now. Writing this now it seems incredible that it was just this morning – we cover such vast distances and our days are so long they seem to merge together, sleeps seem like naps and we’re off again.

Our car was wholly unsuitable for the full 17 miles of off road experience across the valley. A 4X4 is required and we didn’t fancy paying for the tours available for this – we have decided to save paid tours for wildlife specific experiences. The trading post and visitor centre is excellent though and I acquired a cowboy hat, photo to follow I promise.

Lunch was in a Navajo café in the next town along the highway. We picked well amongst the Macdonalds and Taco Bells, finding just about the only independent place still open in town. Sitting down to look at the options we were approached by the native American couple at the next table offering us a trade – our cute young boys for their teen age girl. We were tempted but alas they were joking. Ensued a conversation about where we were from and the hill they live on (I say hill… they pointed to it… I mean sheer cliff in the middle of the desert) and the sheep they graze on common tribal land. They recommended the best local dishes of fried bread with beef and mutton which we went with having glanced around the room to see that literally everyone was eating it too. We all shook hands and said goodbye… well, we all shook hands except Patrick, who in attempting a high five actually just chucked his massive glass of water across the room. The food was genuine and delicious.

And again we drove… and drove, weaving back and forth between Arizona and Utah. Just as you think the desert is so vast you can’t imagine it ending, so you’re starting to feel the reverse of claustrophobia from earth curvature views and skies broken only by occasional man made aeroplane trails – the only modern intrusion in this untouched scene – just as you wonder “how much further can this possibly continue”, despite the diversity of colour and rock and sand and plant. Suddenly it ends. Green appears across the sandy ground. Albeit a shrubby dry green. The sand and rock changes colour again to one we’ve not yet seen, a deep red/brown and the horizon is no longer broken by rugged, random and precarious rocks but instead by rolling hills and more gentle protrusions. There are still sharp ledges and sudden gorges, where dried river beds eagerly await the coming rains, but they are softened by the greenness. As I took a turn driving so Rob could have his daily nap I saw a cow licking a new born calf, always a magical sight.

It’s so late now, we are in a town called Kanab. The children are asleep and we need to get up early tomorrow to set off to Bryce Canyon before a particular road closes and blocks our route until lunchtime. I haven’t got time to transfer photos to the computer and process them for this post but tomorrow night I’ll do a photo post for you of the last few days.  

From East to West – The Road Trip Days, Part 2

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Oklahoma to Mesa via Santa fe

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The following morning seemed to drag also, due to various mishaps such as muffin mushed into carpet and painful splinters in feet requiring two man extraction. Plus the traffic around Oklahoma slowed down our pace. But our plan for the day was to drive… and drive we did. We detoured from the interstate at Elk City to drive across the Black Kettle National Grassland. Now these were country roads… Big skies, long empty roads and stunning views stretching for miles and miles.

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Open views for miles and miles

By the afternoon the sky had interesting clouds though and we were mystified by the strange mists rolling around us blocking the views… Suddenly the “clouds” closed in and smelled of smoke… we were headed straight for a wild fire. The winds were picking up and an email arrived from a friend warning us of the tornadoes building in the area. Now quite honestly I’m all for a bit of excitement and extreme weather and were I not with my three small children and beloved husband I would be well up for sticking around in the thick of the action… but with our parental instincts kicking in with full force we were driving on adrenaline to get the hell out of there!

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The smoke was closing in and getting thick

A sheriff come in the opposite direction and turned us around away from the fire. Following her directions to safety we relaxed until the moment the wind made a dramatic change in direction, the smoke thickened and we realised this way was even worse… so did everyone else and trucks, cars and bikes started turning around as three fire engines with gas masked men on the front wizzed past, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

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The fire engines had wizzed past and we decided to head the other way

Detouring again down dirt tracks we managed to put some distance between us and the smoke and finally came across a small town with a Subway for some sandwiches, as our picnic plans were somewhat scuppered by the extreme weather. From the car to the door was treacherous with strong winds which nearly picked feather light Patrick off the floor. We ate and we drove… and we put as much distance as we could between our children and the dangers we simply aren’t accustomed to.

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We put some distance between us and the fire as quick as we could!

A beautiful sunset and clear interstate got us to New Mexico and we stopped for the night at Santa Rosa, transferring sleeping babies straight to their beds. Far more efficiently we rose, had a quick breakfast and hit the road, making it to Santa fe by mid-morning for a fantastic brunch. Santa fe is an interesting place. It’s hard to remember you’re still in America feeling far more Spanish/Mexican. Stunning art and crafts line the streets and the wealth of the area seems to seep through the side walks adding glamour to your steps.

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Santa fe is a beautiful city. Even the drive to get there is stunning with the snow capped mountains of New Mexico towering over the desert

A city for hippies and artists we didn’t spend long with the children but is definitely on my list of places to return to in the future with adult only company. It’s beautiful, romantic and exciting. After the delicious food we wandered back to the car peering into the pricey shop windows wowing at the cowboy boots and massive diamonds and set off again to reach Mesa by nightfall. It was a long drive but it was fun and we made another detour once we reached Arizona.

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The Painted Desert within the Petrified Forest National Park. The colours are from various geological periods with gaps from erosion between vast time frames.

The Petrified Forest National Park, an incredible desert landscape with fascinating geology spanning almost unfathomable periods of time and littered with trees so old they have turned to stone. It’s hard to get your head around the process of wood being changed into stone and yet retaining it’s fine detail, character and appearance. More than just retaining such detail it is enhanced with vibrant crystal colours and a texture which is difficult to process when your eyes see trees but your fingers feel rocks. It’s hard to picture the forest that once was in this barren, Mars like landscape but the evidence is there, fossilised and palatable and so real to the naked eye and fingers.

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The Petrified Forest National Park… fossils like you’ve never seen before.

The kids have been great, looking out and discussing the landscape. Although there have been plenty of rows over toy guns and catapults, goodness knows how many toilet stops and far more hours watching films then I would ever have thought I would allow. Rob and I have been listening to the audio-book of The Earth Abides, at the start of which he completes the same road trip in reverse – it’s passed many hours and complemented the landscape with apocalyptic loneliness we both love to imagine.

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